This inexpensive and brief text examines the main problems in contemporary philosophy and uses more than 100 “Food for Thought” exercises to promote critical thinking and help students become active learners of philosophy. The book is intended for use by professors teaching a problems-oriented course, but is structured to appeal to any reader willing to explore subjects such as free will, personal identity, existence of God, and more.
Ultimate Questions explores how the timeless problems of Western philosophy are located inside our ordinary ways of thinking and being. It encourages readers to think about philosophy first-hand by using vivid and engaging examples. It also introduces readers to prominent up-to-date theories being applied to the same problems encountered by contemporary analytic philosophers. After reading this text, students will gain a better sense of how mysterious their own natures really are.
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CHAPTER ONE: What is Philosophy?
Making Sense of the World
The Relationship between Philosophy and Science The Main Branches of Philosophy
CHAPTER TWO: Philosophical Tools
A Demand of Reason: Avoid Contradictions
Lexical and Real Definitions
Challenging Definitions: Counterexamples and Thought Experiments
The Basic Structure of Arguments
Putting Arguments into Standard Form
Deductive and Inductive Argument
Evaluating Deductive Arguments: Validity and Soundness
Evaluating Deductive Arguments: Logical Form
Evaluating Inductive Arguments: Probability
CHAPTER THREE: WHAT DO WE KNOW?
What is Knowledge? .
Three Different Theories of Knowledge
The Case for Skepticism
Descartes’ Quest for Certainty Empiricism.
The Case for Empiricism
Problems with Perception
The Problem of Induction
The Case for Rationalism
Problems for Rationalism
Final Remarks on Epistemology
CHAPTER FOUR: THE PROBLEM OF FREE WILL
Why is there a Problem with Free Will?
The Case for Hard-Determinism
Can Indeterminism save Free Will?
A Fundamental Problem for Compatibilism
The Case for Libertarianism
Problems for Libertarianism
Final Remarks on the Problem of Free Will
CHAPTER FIVE: THE PROBLEM OF PERSONAL IDENTITY
What is the problem?
The Persistence Question
The Illusion Theory of Personal Identity
The Case for the Illusion Theory Problems for the Illusion Theory
The Body Theory of Personal Identity [Animalism]
The Case for the Body Theory
Problems for the Body Theory
The Soul Theory of Personal Identity
The Case for the Soul Theory
Problems for the Soul Theory .
The Memory Theory of Personal Identity
The Case for the Memory Theory
Problems for the Memory Theory Final Remarks on Personal Identity
CHAPTER SIX: THE MIND/BODY PROBLEM
What is the Problem
Possible Solutions to the Mind/Body Problem
Arguments for Substance Dualism
The Conceivability Argument
Arguments against Substance Dualism
The Problem of Interaction
Do Dualists commit a Category Mistake?
Varieties of Physicalism
Arguments against Logical Behaviorism
The Identity Theory .
Evidence for the Identity Theory
Arguments against the Identity Theory
Functional Concepts and “Stuff” Concepts
Functionalism: Mind as Software
Functionalism and Artificial Intelligence: The Turing Test
Arguments against Functionalism .
The Chinese Room Argument
Problems with Qualia
Final Remarks on the Mind Body Problem
CHAPTER SEVEN: DOES GOD EXIST?
God, Faith, and Reason
What do we mean by the word “God”?
Arguments in Defense of a Classical Theistic God
Arguments from Religious Experiences
The Ontological Argument
What is the Effect of these Arguments?
Arguments against the Existence of a Classical Theistic God
The Logical Problem of Evil
The Evidential Problem of Evil
Final Remarks on the Problem of God’s Existence
CHAPTER EIGHT: WHAT OUGHT WE TO DO?
Moral Intuitions and Moral Principles
A Fundamental Challenge: Relativism
The Case for Subjective Relativism
Problems for Subjective Relativism
The Case for Cultural Relativism
Problems for Cultural Relativism
Final Remarks on Cultural Relativism
Some Important Ethical Theories
Divine Command Theory
The Case for the Divine Command Theory
Problems for the Divine Command Theory.
The Basic Idea
Pleasure and Happiness .
Problems for Utilitarianism
Duty Based Theories
The Importance of a Good Will
Advantages of Kant’s Ethics
Problems for Kant’s Ethics
Virtue Based Theories
The Importance of Moral Character
Advantages of Virtue Ethics
Problems for Virtue Ethics
Final Remarks on the Problem of Morality
Every chapter has been reworked and updated with an eye to improving presentation of various philosophical positions throughout the book.
New short essay/reflection questions at the end of each chapter.
Several Food for Thought exercises have been updated by incorporating recent events into the presentation.
Several new graphic representations of various philosophical positions.
Unique Chapter Changes:
Chapter 4: Discussion of free will now includes a discussion of the Consequence Argument, as well as an updated version of various compatibilist theories of freedom.
Chapter 5: A new overview of the various questions that might fall under the problem of personal identity.
Chapter 7: Presentation of the cosmological argument has been completely revised, as well as the presentation of the problem of evil.
In This Section:
I. Author Bio
II. Author Letter
I. Author Bio
Nils Ch. Rauhut studied philosophy and history at the University of Regensburg (Germany). He received an M.A. degree in philosophy from the University of Colorado at Boulder, and a Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Washington in Seattle. He taught at Weber State University in Ogden, Utah, and he is currently teaching at Coastal Carolina University in Conway, South Carolina.
II. Author Letter
I have taught Introduction to Philosophy in various class sizes and at various academic institutions for more than fifteen years. I enjoy it tremendously but I also know that teaching the course is challenging.
A genuine introduction to philosophy requires a conversation between us, the students, and the content. However, students are often reluctant to engage in genuine conversations about great ideas. Why think, argue, or speak in class if listening to lectures seems so much more convenient? My textbook, Ultimate Questions: Thinking about Philosophy 3e, is constructed to get students actively engaged in doing philosophy together with you in the classroom. More than 100 Food for Thought Exercises in the text are designed to generate lively classroom discussions and sharpen critical thinking. The exercises are designed to make the philosophy classroom more interactive and they help students realize whether they have grasped important concepts clearly.
My text does not presuppose that students already have a natural curiosity to think and talk about great philosophical questions. Instead, it is designed to awaken such curiosity by showing them how the great questions arise naturally in our ordinary ways of being. The book is an invitation for students to realize that the great questions of philosophy are invariably intertwined with the way all of us live every day. To study the great questions then, is ultimately an attempt to get to know ourselves.
Students read much less than we instructors hope. I have tried to write Ultimate Questions such that students are seduced into reading. I have tried to write clearly without oversimplifying any philosophical position or problem. My hope is that the book can provide for students partly what a lecture normally provides, so that instructors have more freedom to use class time for discussions, group work, role play or any other form of active learning.
I would be delighted to hear from anyone using this book in their classes, and would especially value any suggestions for improvement, my e-mail is email@example.com.
Coastal Carolina University